Appliance Shopping Doesn’t Have to be a Wash

Just because you can buy it online or at a big-box store doesn’t mean you should. Shoppers who’ve done their research and found a trusted store hold a strong advantage.

You can buy almost anything online these days, but some things are better purchased in person. At least that’s Andy Guler’s belief.

“Appliances are a much trickier thing to navigate online,” says the vice president of Guler’s Appliance and Mattress, 4436 E. State St. in Rockford.

Guler explains that the family-owned store, which opened in 1936 and recently expanded to its present location, maintains a robust website to complement the modern showroom.

Appliance shopping tends to begin on the internet, where customers can browse prices, styles and colors. But, when it comes to the final decision, most of Guler’s clients prefer to make a trip into the showroom so they can speak with a professional.

“We have found that people want to touch the appliances and feel them and see them in person,” he says. “That’s not to say people can’t do their research, purchase online and have everything automated. But I would say less than 10% of our sales are online. The hands-on thing with appliances is here to stay.”

Cal Wescott, owner of Rite-Way Furniture and Appliance, 20 E. Stephenson St., in Freeport, agrees. “I think customers need to come in and view appliances,” he says.

Whether you start your appliance shopping on the web or in the building, Guler and Wescott both have valuable tips to share.

First, have a sense of what you want. You can hone your options by browsing the web or talking to an experienced salesperson. This is also a chance to ask questions and discover details that aren’t available online.

“The selection has changed dramatically,” Wescott says. “For stoves, there are more convection ovens and air fryers. There are apps where you can control your oven from an outside source, or you can view what is in your refrigerator so you can see what is missing while you’re shopping.”

While it’s good to have an idea of style, color and amenities, it’s not mandatory. Plenty of customers come in knowing only that they need a new appliance and that experts will be there to help them make the right choice.

“That’s why we’re here, to give our professional guidance so what they purchase fits their home, their style and their budget,” says Guler. “There are some savvy consumers who take their time online to buy, but not everybody has the time, or they are buying for the first time.”

Both Guler’s and Rite-Way boast massive showrooms where customers can consult with experienced salespersons and get an up-close look at the appliances. Before you buy, however, Wescott recommends taking measurements of the space the appliance will go.

“This is important, especially at older homes,” he says. “You should know your height, width and depth.”

While your tape measure is out, take a close look at how the appliance will get into the home, as well. What’s the size of your doorways and any other spaces, like stairwells, the delivery crew will have to navigate?

“It’s not one size fits all,” he says. “People with aging kitchens and cabinetry may not be able to fit a lot of current refrigerators. We need a measurement of the space. Then we can decide what style you want.”

There are other details you’ll need to know in advance. When purchasing a stove, know whether your home is set up for gas or electric appliances. Even an appliance that seems straightforward, like a dishwasher, is worthy of a conversation.

“One thing that has become important for people is the sound,” says Guler. “More people have open floor plans, so they want to be able to run the dishwasher and still be able to talk over it or watch TV. A lot of the new ones are much quieter. They are also more efficient and use less water.”

Both Guler and Wescott highlight the new technology available in all types of appliances, but they also recognize that high-tech is not necessarily for everybody. Wescott still sees a number of customers who are looking for something basic, without a lot of bells and whistles.

“The majority of the population is just looking for something that functions properly and fits their space,” he says. “Most of our customers often buy something similar to what they’ve had in the past and what they are used to. The higher-tech stuff has mostly gone to the younger generation.”

Customers who are minding their budget might want to check their calendar before heading to the store. Most places claim low prices and/or price matching throughout the year, but there are also times when it’s best to shop for top deals. The days and weeks leading up to holidays like Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day can be good for savings, but the best time to open your wallet is November and December, around Black Friday.

Payment plans are another way to purchase a major appliance without breaking the bank. A trip to the store should always include questions about financing.

“Most people pay upfront when they make their purchase,” Guler says. “Otherwise, we ask for a down payment. Some customers take advantage of our financing options, so they can take their time paying for their purchase. It is usually for someone with better credit, but there are financing options that are available to just about anyone.”

Once an appliance has been chosen, there are other considerations that should be made. Extended warranties, for example, may seem like an unnecessary cost, but an ounce of prevention could be worth a pound of cure.

“They are probably more important now than before,” Guler says. “Appliances are built with efficiency in mind, and the way that generally works is through computer chips and more-sophisticated computer components. They are built well but can be delicate. Extended warranties are something more people are taking advantage of. We don’t push them, but we will suggest them.”

Another important consideration is delivery. Very few customers want to load a major appliance into their vehicle and take it home themselves. Guler’s Appliance & Mattress delivers within a 60-mile radius. Rite-Way Furniture and Appliance provides delivery services throughout Stephenson, Winnebago, Jo Daviess, Carroll and Ogle counties. Both stores also offer haul-away service on your old unit. After the customer signs on the dotted line, both Wescott and Guler emphasize checking with the dealer to find how soon the appliance will be available. In most cases, including Guler’s and Rite-Way, delivery is within a few days to a week of purchase.

As for service, unlike many national or regional chains, Guler’s and Rite-way stand by the products they sell and offer repair services.

“If someone purchased their appliance from us and they have a warranty or extended warranty, they can come to us and we take care of it as quickly as possible,” Guler says. “And as for communicating with the manufacturer, we do all of that, so you’re not stuck dialing an 800 number and you’re not trying to handle problems on your own.”

The search for a new appliance may seem intimidating, but having a conversation with the experts in the showroom is a great way of making sure you get what you’re looking for.

“It starts with our sales staff,” says Guler. “They live and breathe appliances. That is the advantage over buying online or going to a big-box store. You won’t find that kind of professional touch that we have.”